Saturday Dance and a Storm:on line short story
Andrea, a young Swedish immigrant living in Duluth, Minnesota in the last decade of the 18th Century, is looking forward to attending the Saturday night dance with Jay, a young man she met while ice skating..
“Dress warm,” Jay told Andrea. “It looks like a storm coming our way.”
The dance was always held at the community hall just a short walk from the hotel where Andrea and Karolina worked. It was Saturday night and Andrea had been looking forward to having Jay escort her to the dance. They had met while ice skating and she was thrilled that he invited her to go with him. Karolina was not as thrilled. Jay had introduced her to his brother John, who was nice enough and really handsome, but she had hoped to continue a friendship with the preacher Roald.
“I thought Roald would ask to see me again,” she told Andrea. “but he just walked away after we were skating.”
Andrea could not tell her the real reason Roald didn’t ask her. It was Andrea that scared Roald away. They came from the same village in Sweden and she knew he was a womanizer. . Karolina was a bit too innocent to get mixed up with him.
The wind was starting to get strong and the snow heavier when they got to the dance. Jay held the door for the others to get in. A gust of wind caught the door and threatened to blow it our of his grasp. He tightened his grip and got inside pulling it shut behind him. They all brushed the snow from their coats which they hung on the wooden pegs in a narrow closet by the door. The music had started and they were drawn into starting the dance with a traditional polka. It took the couples a short while to catch the rhythms of the musicians because the area they lived in was mostly Scandinavian, but had a mix of traditions. The music seemed a bit more Finnish than the Swedish that Andrea was used to. It didn’t take long to make it their own though.
Everyone in the hall was invited to join in a set dance which had everyone in double around the hall. As they passed the biggest window, Andrea stared at the window in fascination as lightening flashed outside. “We have a winter thunderstorm Jay told her. She said that she didn’t recall thunder and lightening in the winter. “It is not too common, but it happens,“ he told her. “Being by the big lake adds to some unusual conditions.”
The musicians played on and the dancers danced. An especially loud crack of thunder followed a flash of lightening. They were all startled when another loud crack followed after that. The lightening had hit a tree nearby outside the hall. The lightening weakened the tree and as snow gathered on its branches they could hear a cracking sound that was not lightening, They all held their breath anticipating what followed. The loud cracking sound was followed by the sound of the tree falling into the roof of the hall.. The roof, already heavy with snow, started to bend under the weight.. If the roof caved in one or more of the Franklin stoves used to heat the hall could tip over. With the wood structure a fire could be disastrous. John with the help of some other men found some boards and started to make braces to prop up the ceiling.. He knew that they could not stop a cave-in but it might slow it down.
Swedish folk dance
Swedish folk dance, modern times
“I think the roof will hold,” Jay said, “ but that big tree limb has blocked the door. We’re trapped here unless we can find another way out.”
Andrea looked in horror as one of the stoves near where the tree fell started to topple. She signaled her friend Karolina to follow her and the both grabbed the punch bowls and splashed the liquid on the burning wood when the stove fell and spilled its contents. Some other people started to get snow from the window sills to put around the stove. The building was built on a hill and they found that the window on that side of the building was close to the ground. Jay and John directed some other people to move some tables near the windows. The long dresses the girls wore hampered getting out the windows but with everyone helping each other they managed to get out of the building. The next obstacle was the snow and cold. Some guests were unable to get there coats and they were on the side of the building away from the street.
“Let’s go to the hotel. Our manager won’t turn away people who need shelter.” Karolina said. They all followed her around the building. They got to the street and started to follow the outline of the street that showed through the snow until they could see the hotel. They all turned and stared as they heard another crashing sound. As snow gathered on the roof and the tree, the weight caved in the roof. The falling roof and tree must have tipped over the stoves because flames spreading started around the windows.
They hurried to the hotel for shelter. They saw the fire wagon go by. It was too late, but they would try containing the fire. Some of the men who had salvaged their coats went to join them. Many of them were members of the volunteer fire brigade. Andrea noted that even Roald was there to help and went to help the volunteers to control the fire.
Andrea and Karolina led the rest into the dining room where there was a fireplace and a piano. They both were blessed with fine singing voices and knew many songs from their home in Sweden. They could not recapture the mood of the dance, but singing could help get everyone through the storm.
Finally the storm did end. People came in wagons and carriages with warm clothes and everyone went to their homes feeling grateful to be alive. It was a night they would remember with the winter thunderstorm, a fire but also fellowship that some maintained long after.
© 2012 Don A. Hoglund
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